The health of marriages is in decline in Canada. It is commonly known that one in four marriages is expected to end in divorce. Many people, especially young people, have lost confidence in marriage altogether. In 1961, 92% of Canadian adults were married, by 2011 that number was down to 67 %. (In 2011, for the first time in history, there were more single adult households than couple households with children.)* Married life is often the butt of jokes in a culture that increasingly devalues the institution.
Why does the Bible say that marriage is part of God’s good plan? How can married couples experience the satisfaction in marriage that God intends? How can single people find wholeness apart from marriage or prepare to be married if that is their hope? These are some of the questions we will be addressing in the series of messages that launches this Sunday. The series is called “2 made 1”, and it will run for a total of eight weeks.
Whether you are married, single, or single again, I hope these messages will enrich your relationships and your walk with God. I am also hoping that this series will enrich the quality of our church’s community life as we rediscover the important place God has given each of us in His Body, whether married or single.
[*Source: Historica Canada: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/marriage-and-divorce.]
This year, as a community, we tried something new for our annual Bannerman Christmas Event. We asked ourselves: “How can we foster an environment of interactivity with our neighbours, and share the story of Christmas in an effective way?” The resulting idea was “Discover Christmas.”
The best description of the event I have heard came from one of our Management Elders, Kevin Van Popta who called it “a progressive dinner theatre.” People enjoyed a meal in several stages as they moved from station to station hearing the narrative of that Holy Night from the perspectives of the wise men, the Roman soldiers, the shepherds, and the holy family themselves. Our Bethel actors met the Monday before to practice and took their roles very seriously! Hearing the wise men describe prophecies that were spoken hundreds of years before Christ was born was a highlight for me! In addition to acting, each station had festive foods, and crafts for kids (which included Christmas ornaments and family portraits at the manger).
Anytime you take a step of faith into the unknown it can feel like a bit of a risk. We wondered: “Will anyone come?” and “How will people respond to a new format?”
I am happy to report that many people came and they enjoyed interacting with the Christmas Story! Our census station counted 133 people who came and enjoyed the festivities (and this number does not even include the Bethelites who took part running the event!). One family noted that they loved the new format because not only were they fed a meal, but they were also able to engage with the Story of Christmas. How affirming of our call to not only feed the body, but also the spirit.
A big thank you goes out to everyone who brought food, played a character, or helped in any way to make the event a big success. It is exciting to be part of a church that is enthusiastic to serve and present the Gospel in a creative way to its neighbours!
Last week, as staff, we had our annual Christmas luncheon at a local restaurant. It is your annual gift to us, Bethel. Thank you! It is a highlight for us.
Each year after our lunch, it is our tradition to deliver Christmas Cards and chocolates to our Church’s nearest neighbours. It is our way of saying “thank you” to them for being patient with the activity of our busy church and our parking along their streets.
Though most people are away at work when we call on them, every fifth house or so a person will actually open the door when we ring. Usually people are courteous to us. Once in a in a very great while someone will be rude. Former pastor Bill Tuininga had a funny experience, once, which he handled with grace. As he came to the door a man growled: “No junk mail!” Bill returned, “You don’t want junk mail, but how about some junk food?” The man laughed, and accepted the gift.
I noticed something this year I had not noticed before. When I said to those answering the door: “Merry Christmas from Bethel Church,” and gave them the gift, people had little reaction. It struck me that they might have even been a tad suspicious - like the gift might be a gimmick to get them to come to church. But then I would continue, “This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for putting up with us all year. You have been patient with our parking in front of your house, and we appreciate you.” It was at that point, people would inevitably break into a smile, and say something like, “Oh, it’s no problem at all. Glad to do it.”
I think this reaction by our neighbours illustrates an important principle. Sometimes Christians try to witness from a position of strength - as, if to say: “I’m doing this for you so that you will be impressed with how I am behaving.” However unintended, this puts the focus on us, and this is not right. Our witness should always point away from us to Christ. The spirit of Christ is to be humble. When we are humble we serve without self-consciousness and are able to acknowledge how others have enriched us even as we have enriched them. –Pastor Tom
Our WillowWood Preschool continues to thrive. The program is clearly affecting the lives of the children who attend.
Recently, teachers told the children that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. This came as a surprise to some of them. They thought that Halloween was when we celebrate His birth. Many others did not even know that Jesus came to earth as a baby! They associate Christmas only with gifts and Santa.
This confusion about Christmas in the minds of the children is partly because they are very young - three and four years old. This is not the only reason. At least a couple of the children had simply not been taught the Good News of Christmas. How valuable for these children that each Tuesday and Thursday they are taught about God in every activity throughout the morning.
Teacher Amanda Woudstra, and assistant Monica Loewen do a super job, and the ministry is in great demand. Sixteen children attend regularly and eight more are on a waiting list. Christie Thomas, the program director, is seriously considering offering an additional, afternoon session next year.
Praise the Lord for what he is doing through this important ministry of Bethel Church. Please pray that God will continue to use the WillowWood Preschool to touch lives with his love and Good News.
Today we launch a new series of messages that will take us through the Christmas season, ending on Christmas Day. It is called Jesus, Our Hope. I believe you will find it both traditional and refreshingly new. Let me explain how it can be both of these things at the same time.
We will be exploring many of the most traditional and beloved passages about Jesus’ birth. They have been helping believers to anchor their souls in the Good News of Christmas for millennia. However, we will not be looking at these stories like someone watching a nativity scene in a display window - as something quaint, comforting, and detached from real life.
While these accounts are about history-shaping events of the first century, they also inform us that God’s Kingdom is on the move today. Each story invites you to be changed and to be led by the Holy Spirit into the drama of what God is doing right now in the lives of individuals and families throughout the world.
May these ancient accounts affect you in a fresh way by the power of the Holy Spirit who is alive and active among us. –Pastor Tom
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.